It is time to explore yet another incredible Italian food region: Veneto. Veneto is home to several beautiful cities and major tourist attractions, such as Venice, Verona and Padua.
But Veneto offers more than “just” beautiful cities, it also has a lot of delicious traditional dishes for you to enjoy. The cuisine in Veneto is as varied as the landscape itself. Many famous regional Italian products come from Veneto, such as rice for risotto, polenta, and prosecco. The presence of the coast means that the seafood is always extremely fresh.
So, if you’re planning to visit Veneto, be sure to enjoy all the delicious drinks, dishes and snacks this region has to offer. From fish to Aperol Spritz, these are the best things to eat in Veneto:
People in Veneto, and especially Venice, know how to mix a good drink. Of course, the wine in this region is delicious, but Veneto also produced a few famous cocktails.
Probably the best known is the Bellini, a cocktail made with prosecco (a sparkling wine only produced in Veneto) and fresh peach juice. It was invented by Giuseppe Cipriani, founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Italy. There are other variations using strawberry, pomegranate or mandarin juice.
Another drink has been popular in Italy for years and is now taking the world by storm: Aperol Spritz or Spritz Veneziano. Aperol is a bright orange and slightly bitter aperitif, originally developed in Padua. To make an Aperol Sprtiz, it is mixed with prosecco and sparkling water. The idea of spritz (mixing wine with sparkling water) dates back to the 1800s, but the addition of Aperol was first popularized in the 1950s. It’s the perfect drink for a hot summer day, because it’s refreshing and light.
What better to enjoy with a cocktail than a few bites of delicious finger food? In Venice, they’ve perfected the art of the aperitivo, a quick meal before dinner to warm up your appetite. In Venice this consists of a tasty drink, like an Aperol Spritz or a glass of wine, and a couple of small sandwiches and bites called cicchetti. These are cheap (1-3 euro a piece), similar to pinxtos or tapas in Spain, and perfect for a little bite in between sightseeing.
Cicchetti come with all kinds of toppings, from fish to meat and cheese to vegetables. You’ll find the best ones in specific cicchetti bars called bacari. These bars are often quite small and specialize in the tasty little bites. I really loved Osteria al Squero.
The wet inland of Veneto provides the perfect conditions for the cultivation of rice. And not just any rice: starchy, flat, short grain rice that is perfect for making risotto. Risotto means cooked rice, so much like chai tea, the term risotto rice makes no sense. Instead, Italian refer to the specific variety of rice.
The specific variety that’s traditionally grown in Veneto is called vialone nano, and it’s a protected regional product. The high starch content creates a creamy risotto with a bit of a bite. The rice is cooked slowly while stock is stirred in to activate the starch.
Risotto is a real comfort food, and it’s highly customizable. There are many variations of risotto in Veneto. On the coast, it is often eaten with seafood and in flat lands occasionally with frog legs. My favorite was with slow cooked pork shoulder in a small trattoria near Verona, it’s one of the best things to eat in Veneto.
Fritto misto di pesce
Being a seaside region and due to the history of Venice as a major seaport, it is no surprise that seafood and fish play a major role in the cuisine of Veneto. In fact, Venice has the highest consumption of fish and seafood in the whole of Italy. So it’s definitely one of the must things to eat in Veneto.
You can enjoy the super fresh catch of the day in several ways: on pasta, on rice or on polenta. But it is also used to make a popular appetizer or snack called fritto misto. Fritto misto translates to “mixed fried” and that basically says it all. It’s a mix of pieces of fish and seafood, fried in a light batter. Similar to calamari in Spain. You get them wrapped in a paper cone with some lemon and dipping sauce, utterly delicious!
There’s a lot more to do in Venice than eat, check out my travel tips for Venice here.
After all that food, it is finally time for dessert. As good as they are at savory food, the people of Veneto are just as skilled at sweet treats. The most famous dessert from Veneto might just be the most famous Italian dessert of all time: tiramisu. According to most sources, tiramisu was created in the 1960s in Treviso, close to Venice, in a restaurant called Le Beccherie.
The dessert was considered an afrodisiac and often served in brothels to give patrons a second wind. Tiramisu translated to “pull me up” or “pick me up”. The combination of caffeine and sugar sure does the trick.
Traditional tiramisu is made by soaking savoiardi cookies (ladyfingers) in a mix of cold coffee (and sometimes marsala wine). They are layed with a cream of mascarope, egg yolks and sugar, then topped with cocoa powder. It might just be my favorite dessert ever, and it’s absolutely one of the best things to eat in Veneto.
If you’re more in the mood for a quick sweet treat, you should try the Bussola cookies baked on the island Burano. Burano lies close to Venice and is famous for the colorful little houses, but they also bake delicious cookies. The cookies are also known as Venetian butter cookies. The S shape makes them perfect for dipping into your coffee.
Like every other region in Italy, Veneto has a ton of amazing regional specialities. Many of which have become staples of Italian cuisine. Make sure you taste all these dishes and more on your trip to Veneto. Let me know which one of these thimngs to eat in Veneto you’d like to try most in the comments.
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